Experiments with Territories:
Post Cartographic Map Design

Sessions organized for the
Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting,
March 7-11 2006, Chicago Illinois

contact: john krygier




These sessions include researchers and practitioners creating maps and working with models of map design outside of the traditional empirical model that dominated cartographic design research in the latter half of the 20th century: people who think critically about maps and map design and engage in actual map design and construction based on their ideas. Many artists have embraced the map in such a manner. "Map artists ... claim the power of the map to achieve ends other than the social reproduction of the status quo. Map artists do not reject maps. They reject the authority claimed by normative maps uniquely to portray reality as it is, that is, with dispassion and objectivity..." (Wood & Krygier, 2006). Map artist kanarinka claims artists working with maps have an "ethics of experimentation" that is "anything but arbitrary." "...artists experiment with a particular territory in specific ways to reach unforseen destinations." (kanarinka, 2006). Other models of map design include narrative and ambiguity, suggested by literary and film theory, multiple mappings (or counter-mappings) suggested by humanistic and critical theory, indigenous mapping methods, and political mapping informed by post-structuralist theory focused on the complexities of power. Post-cartographic map design research and mapping seeks to expand the way we think about, design, and create maps in our map immersed society.

Quotes: from a special issue of Cartographic Perspectives on Art and Mapping to be published as issue 53, 2006, of the journal. This issue should be out by March of 2006.

Sponsored by: AAG Cartography Specialty Group, AAG Cultural Geography Specialty Group, and the AAG Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group


Of related interest: Rethinking Maps session at 2006 RGS/IBG Annual Conference. "Over the past 20 years there has been a sustained engagement in rethinking the ontological basis and epistemology of cartography. This has led to such conceptual frameworks as: maps as social constructions, post-representational cartography, non-confessional cartography, non-progressive histories of cartography, de-ontologized cartography, denaturalized cartography, critical cartography, counter-mappings and performative mapping. These sessions will bring together scholars to explore these new ways of thinking about maps and what they mean for working cartographers, mapping research and map scholars." Organized by Martin Dodge and Chris Perkins (University of Manchester), Rob Kitchin (NUI Maynooth, Ireland). Abstracts due January 20, 2006






Session One: Presentations (Wednesday, March 8, 8 am to 9:40 am)

Pictures: The Gap Between Maps and Art - Nat Case (Hedberg Maps, Inc.)
Difficulties of Incorporating Indigenous Spatial Perceptions with Western Cartographic Traditions - Renee Pualani Louis (Geography, Hawaii)
Place Codes for Cartography - Margaret Pearce (Geography, Ohio University)
Practicing 'Artography' - Marie Cieri (Geography, Ohio State)


Session Two: Presentations (Wednesday, March 8, 10 am to 11:40 am)

Delete the Border! Activist Art Movements, New Mapping Projects, and the Reworking of the Euro-Border - Sebastian Cobarrubias, Maria Isabel Casas Cortes, Juan Ricardo Aparicio, and John Pickles (Geography, Anthropology, North Carolina)
Geographic Tessellations: Maps, Methods, and Mandalas - Nicholas Schiller (AAG, NY)
Playing With Maps - Chris Perkins (Geography, University of Manchester)
Designing for the Totally Inconceivable: Mods, Hacks and other Unexpected Uses of Maps by Artists (and other Regular People) - kanarinka (artist, Boston)


Session Three: Panel Session

Experiments with Territories: Ideas, Projects, Collaborations (Wednesday, March 8, 1 pm to 2:40 pm)







Pictures: The Gap Between Maps and Art - Nat Case (Hedberg Maps, Inc.)

Maps are a class of pictures, and discourse about them has been dominated by the idea of mapmaking as a separate field of endeavor and study. Recent scholarship has pointed to this separation's fragility, both historically and contemporarily. Carto-criticism over the last quarter-century has focused on debunking cartography's ideology of objectivity. Even given that maps should be seen not as truly objective but as partially objective or pseudo-objective, Implicit messages of objectivity are communicated by map conventions such as framing and cartesian space (which suggest omniscience) and encyclopedic taxonomy (which suggests evenhanded objectivity). These conventions cannot simply be removed or overturned, and their presence is nearly universal in works explicitly built as part of the project of post-deconstruction map-making. Further, the idea of maps' objectivity is part of maps' appeal as a form, providing needed relief as a conceptual framework that enables interaction with an overwhelming, alienating, complex world. To remove even pseudo-objectivity would be to remove an important, socially useful part of their role. Rather than pull the rug out from under from that useful relief, I suggest leaving the day-to-day practice of mapping where it is, but removing the ideological straitjacket from the field by repositioning fine art and maps as elements of a wider world of picturemaking. I conclude with a few intriguing examples of work that ignore ideological boundaries in pursuit of a visual solution to a specific place-depiction problem.


Difficulties of Incorporating Indigenous Spatial Perceptions with Western Cartographic Traditions - Renee Pualani Louis (Geography, Hawaii)

Oftentimes landscapes are classified for management strategies overlooking any kind of indigenous value. Lack of cartographic techniques available to adequately represent indigenous spatial perceptions arguably endorses these strategies. This presentation will look critically at and provide examples of those areas of Indigenous representation currently at odds with Western cartographic design such as territorial demarcation, landscape classification schemes, and landscape-spirit relationships. It will also take a hard look at the cost and consequences of creating adequate cartographic techniques.


Place Codes for Cartography - Margaret Pearce (Geography, Ohio University)

Conventional cartographic design, structured by visual variables and the five types of thematic maps, communicates a homogenized picture of space, devoid of and antithetical to expressions of sense of place. The presence of a narrative structure, or story, evoking sense of place is discouraged in favor of an ideal aesthetic of universality and placelessness. Digital cartographic tools are highly flexible, however, and as capable of expressing story as are other narrative forms such as literature, film, and painting. Working narrative into cartography can be particularly useful for representing cultural and historical geographies, as well as influence the engagement of the map reader. In this paper I will present some design elements with which I have experimented, such as route frames and voice, and consider additional elements with the potential to express story in the map.


Practicing 'Artography' - Marie Cieri (Geography, Ohio State)

Combining the tools and perspectives of geography with those of the arts is central to the work I have been doing as a social geographer and critical cartographer over the last several years. Before becoming a geographer, I worked for many years as an arts producer, curator, researcher, writer and teacher and learned much about the unique communicative and social power that the arts can exert within the public sphere. It is some of that power I now try to bring to my work as a geographer, to critically represent and communicate important social and spatial information to various publics both within and outside the academy. In this session, I will show and discuss some of the alternative cartographies I have produced in this mode, working in collaboration with various populations that generally do not have the same access to tools of geographic representation and communication that most academics and artists do African-Americans, the elderly, lesbians, the poor, etc. None of the techniques I use are new in and of themselves, but perhaps there is something new in how these techniques can be combined, and how looking, thinking and communicating with a hybrid sensibility might bring us closer to understanding the complexities of human spatial interaction.


Delete the Border! Activist Art Movements, New Mapping Projects, and the Reworking of the Euro-Border - Sebastian Cobarrubias, Maria Isabel Casas Cortes, Juan Ricardo Aparicio, and John Pickles (Geography, Anthropology, North Carolina)

In this paper we describe the emergence of new activist social networks in southern Europe that seek to re-vision the spaces of the city and the border. We focus on activist art movements that have deployed mapping projects in innovative ways to re-map and re-vision the complex spatial practices and experiences of the city, and on groups actively involved in attempts to deploy art and mapping to destabilize the increasingly hard borders of southern Europe.


Geographic Tessellations: Maps, Methods, and Mandalas - Nikolas R. Schiller (AAG, DC)

Remove the paradigm of maps being viewed properly from only one direction, and replace it with the concept that a map that can be viewed from any direction. Take an aerial or satellite image taken after a war or natural disaster and reflect on it in such a way that it takes on a sense of balance & harmony. By modifying imagery to create a geographic tessellation, post-modern cartographers can drastically alter their view of the earth as a whole and project their emotions in such a way that renders their map as an extension their thoughts, feelings, and place on the earth. Building off the mathematical principals of MC Escher's famous tessellations, this paper introduces the concept of geographic tessellations, explains the process to create them, and concludes with the various applications of this artistic post-modern cartographic technique.


Playing With Maps - Chris Perkins (Geography, University of Manchester)

Mapping has the potential to empower as well as control. A powerful rationale for map publication has always been the drive to leisure and pleasure: tourist maps market a place but also help us to imagine our holiday; recreational maps help us to climb a hill; the Atlas of Experience web site allows us each to map out our own personalised topographies of emotion. Map design is about beauty and art as well as technology. There is pleasure in the very idea of mapping (Wood 1987). This paper builds upon mapping pleasures by exploring an alternative approach to map design focusing on the metaphor and practice of play, as an open-ended process of investigation in which new worlds are constructed in the imagination, in cyberspace or in the reality. On-line mapping tools, collaborative mapping and new contexts for play have enabled new ways of thinking about design. Using ethnographic and textual approaches this paper charts experiences of collaborative mapping, in contexts where designs are shared and critiqued. Case studies of online mapping in PC-based golfing gaming communities are employed to show the potential of playing with map design, with the map, but also playing with the wider mapping process. Outcomes matter here but the emphasis is very much upon relational thinking and interaction rather than product. Pleasure and achievement are important in this context, but this paper also shows how the wider process of visualisation and map design might be informed by a more ludic stance, in which the politics of affect are played out.


Designing for the Totally Inconceivable: Mods, Hacks and other Unexpected Uses of Maps by Artists (and other Regular People) - kanarinka (artist, Boston)

Malene Rrdam and Anna Mara Bogadttir used a map of Copenhagen to lead a tour of Copenhagen (in New York City). Lee Walton averaged all the coordinates on a tourist map of San Francisco to come up with a single "Average Point of Interest" where he promptly installed a bronze plaque. The Foundcity project asks users to electronically "tag" locations on a map of their neighborhood to share with other visitors and residents. Just like computer systems and video games, maps are tools which are modified (mod-ed), hacked and reappropriated for use in radically new contexts. Artists and others hack maps to question institutional authority, examine social issues, invent urban games, and provide a platform for community discourse. So, the question becomes: How do you build for the inconceivable? How do you design a map for "hackability"? Design for the Totally Inconceivable is a new set of design principles that have not yet been invented. Once invented, they will explain exactly how to do this. Until they are invented, we can explore some provisional ideas together. This session will show a range of map-hacks by artists and non-artists, present a series of design challenges, and invite discussion about the totally inconceivable.




Panel Session: Experiments with Territories: Ideas, Projects, Collaborations

This session reflects on the presentations in Experiments with Territories: Post-Cartographic Map Design I and II and engages in a discussion of ideas for future challenges, ideas, projects and collaborations.








contact: john krygier